Information Aktuelle Projekte Biografie Publikationen Zentrum Transfer Publikationen: Action Model: Societé Anonyme

Action Model: Societé Anonyme
Messages Without a Sender
Preliminary Questions about * * * * * * *

In: * * * * * * * (Ed.): you do not need to pay, but you have to consume it. Conversations and Documents on a Four Year World Project.
Katalogbuch (englisch/deutsch)
Rio de Janeiro/Wien 1996

Text zu Fragen von Anonymität und Subversion

Anonym publizierter Katalog über anonyme Kunststrategien und die anonyme Arbeit von * * * * * * *.
Texte & Interviews von: F.M., B.R., P.R., R.C., V.V., S.A., B.L., K.M., T., A.A., D.J., D.F., W.H., J.B.



Whether a true poet does not, as is continually demanded of him or her, take on the role he or she is entitled or assigned to, but on the contrary forfeits it out of loyalty to his or her work and thus becomes the very opening-up-of-space itself, is a question Emmanuel Lévinas considers in his literary-philosophical analyses on proper names (1988). Elsewhere in these same writings: "Each work is all the more perfect a piece of work, the less important a role the author plays; as if he were carrying out an anonymous command." Artistic activity gives the artist the awareness of not being the creator of his work.

This sort of complex view of eliminating the subjective aspect, of separating work and author, tends to appear antiquated nowadays, although without necessarily implying any disparaging connotations. Anonymity occurs, as Borls Groys has emphasized, enough and to spare, for example in the omnipresent noise of department-store music. For the production of other "noises" a more complex field for differences has emerged, less heroic perhaps, but still romantic in that it coctinually reminds one of focussed isolation. Products and works detach themselves from the person, but the person fails to escape being labeled. Prestige and impact differ so clearly within a branch, but above all from one branch to the next; one need only think of playwrights and screenwriters or consider the work engineers and auchitects for this rituality to become apparent. Living and working in anonymity is the rule; making a name for oneself, the exception. Those who dont succeed in this, remain for all appearances nameless, at least as far as playing the game goes, the game that relies in a certain sense on market values and the capacity for rembering. Though each person is required to have a name, it isn't until a person becomes known beyond the limited circle of private and professional relations that one speaks of having made a name for oneself, though this be said without the distinguishing aspect being perceived as all embarrassment to the unknown persons, those persons destined from the beginning to be forgotten. A low profile or absence can only have an effect where there is already the demand for presence. Brand names, as a cliché or standard of quality, are the accepted basis for orientation; they provide those who know no better with som thing to hold onto, whether its cars, whisky or art. They offer security that sooner or later leads to a dead end.

Long before this became clear, Marcel Duchamp once stated the following in the course of his reflections on the artist who is guided by chance and stumbles across his material, who prefers to hide his work or never to compiete it: "The greatest artist of tomorrow will go underground." Except for episodic appearances, such as Situationists, this seems in the meantime to have been clearly refuted, but tomorrow is still tomorrow, and there is always a new underground, even if it be in no way intentional. Identification and personification have remained central themes, precisely because the perceivable processes insist upon them so vehemently, and because it is impossible to communicate anything without the intercession of the media; existence itself depends on the media. Andy Warhols effect of a few minutes of fame being sufficient have long since been a boon to every assassin. The masterminds keep in the background.

There is another field for those who, despite all, still crave anonymity. In Canettis writings we find the following line: The best mensch ought to have no name. And H. C. Artmann in his proclamation of the poetic act says of the same that he will perhaps only by chance be passed on to the public as an illogical gesture. This, however, only occurs in one in a hundred cases. He cant afford to even be suspected of becoming well-known out of consideration for his physical and moral integrity, he is, after all, an act of the heart and of pagan unpretentiousness. Thomas Bernhard, whose fictitious character is an author who keeps changing his manuscript until all that is left in the end is the title Der Untergeher (The Foundering Man), never stopped reiterating that he didn't want to leave any traces beind.

This doesn't refer merely to inner conflicts, but also to conditions in general, where much is perceived as battle, with heroes and a great number of nameless soldiers and partisans, or at the least as rivalry for a name, for prominece. Prominence doesn't, however, only go to what emerges from anonymity, what is drawn out of anonymity. All that is nameless, unnamed, all that goes unnoticed is considered de facto virtually worthless, yet it is still a part of the whole, not to be ignored, it is constantly being perceived in some way or another, just not Isolated enough for it to play its own role in communication. In this sense excommunication is the rule, despite all the technical possibilities fon communicating. Being excluded is much more frequent than being included. Even on the Internet the short-lived everything's-connected-to-everything-else pay-no-dues freedom is soon to end. Ort a world-wide scale this becomes even more evident than on the level of predictable and fully organized societies. In the many overlapping and melding societés anonymes the stage upon which the societies representatives in business, politics, culture and the arts interact as players can itself only give the illusion of consisting of independent individuals. The extent to which each relies on systems remains hidden, otherwise everything would be incomprehensible. All that occurs requires a context in order to be perceived. lf this is not the case, the result is journalistic oversimplification, spiraling on into infinity. We need only to refer to everyday life to find an abundance of examples of how difficult it is to dispense with the antagonism of "violence to understanding" (Habermas) in order to reach compromises which could lead to progress.

Anonymity and ex-communication are, as we see, the norm from which a few do, under certain circumstances, derive a sense of freedom, though this be achieved only at the cost of the pressure subjected upon them. He who chooses to hide himself, who works from somewhere in the background, does so, as it tends to be assumed, out of fear of being persecuted, exposed or humiliated. Patterns for this, come from the criminal world or irregular conflicts, behind which often stand artificial identities (Lenin, Stalin, Tito); civilian parallels tend to be dictated by lower-exposure aesthetic considerations, perhaps the only interest being the desire to be someone else (Madonna). To go through life without a name, or under a false one, can perhaps give the illusion of living a double life and thus having at one's disposal a greater number of possibilities. A stage-name has the simple function of sounding better and of freeing one from his or her origins. To work in complete anonymity can turn a person into the hidden observer of his or her own actions, much as in the case of a terrorist or of that ubiquitous phenomenon tourism.

On the other hand, archaic writings, fairytales, folksongs, the classic artifacts were all, for the most part, done anonymously. It wasnt important to give the names of their authors. The gods knew everything anyway. Who has replaced them? The super-ego and in a more general sense the media. lf the media fail to notice you, you do not exist in this reality. lf you do not attract notice, you are just not there, but with no chance of your absence being noticed. Remaining silent, as a form of communication, has no effect; it is more reminiscent of atonement than of the constant difficulty of communicating, something that is not very easy to communicate. These ties between media and conscience are the late consequences of visions of omnipotence, in which it is assumed that someone is observing everything and will give an assessment in the end. In line with this shift is the voluntarily confession of secrets, something that happens every day in the media, it's the desire to get something off one's chest. The reconstruction of the family, the aristocracy, as prominence, as virtual circle of millions of acquaintances, this too follows this shift of changes, a reconstructed participation in intimacy. The only secrecy we still defend are state, business, and banking secrets.

"Architecture without architects," the major exhibition by Bernard Rudofsky in the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1964) has, from a completely different approach, had a part in shifting attention back to the dimensions of anonymous quality. But because that which is anonymous and put together by many hands cannot be attributed to any one person - neither to give credit nor to place blame - and because theory also has to rely on examples, fields of a production of prominence remain a refuge for what is personal. As long as it is possible for communication processes and the production of signs and symbols to, through their detachment from their creator, achieve, at least for a little while, some degree of impact, and as long as work continues to be done which is serious, concentrated, ironic, which provokes objectivity and distance, then the opening-up-of-space mentioned in connection with writing at the beginning of this essay may still take place.

Names only encompass what people associate with them; whatever else happens is irrelevant. Should something unexpected pop up - unusual situations, where creator or interests do not correspond with usual patterns, as is in the case of oooooooo who, everywhere from Paris, Vienna, Zurich, Greece, Rio de Janeiro, Turkey, Italy, Berlin, New York, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, China or Thailand, has left his mysterious messages, meticulously and unconventionally planned and delivered, with different groups of people, people who a priori hardly think of art, taxi drivers for example - these surprises often set loose a chain of reactions, since attention, irritation, thought and speech are supplied with curiously odd material. Normally, nobody knows where it came from. Context remains provokingly unclear. Still, this doesnt stop people from wondering. Th incorporation of counterfeiting, especially the fabrication of fake stamps, combines practicality with subversion as well as tangible and optically perceptible aspects. For showing how expensive it would be to address many people in a correct but still his own way is a part of his work; this is one of the reasons why he is constantly being subjected to investigations and persecution. His addresses, spread out all over the world, form a perplexing net of far-reaching connections. Those affected by the random selection need not show their reactions in public, but are instead left to themselves. What happens from there, happens. Minimal stimuli and faint sounds put things in motion that might otherwise have required a much greater effort. When expectations are disturbed, reactions shift from how they normally might have been. Since everything is intended to remain free and unguided, origin and impact fade into anonymity. What could be possible is given one fleeting, questioning, moment of existence, of tangible presence, and all that was necessary was the leaving behind of a trace.


Welcome Eurosex / from Venezia / date June 1995 / kind: transformed copied Italian stamp with envelope posted with the stamp / size 3 cm x 4 cm / situation: Venice Biennale
© Christian Reder 1996/2001